Once you've got 'em, make sure you keep 'em
Thursday 23rd May 2002 10:49
Caterer's postbag is a good barometer of the mood of the hospitality industry. As with most forecasts, there are ups and downs, areas of high and low pressure, and a mixture of sunshine and showers.
There are lots of prevailing issues as well, of which the skills shortage, not surprisingly, is one of the most widely aired. Many of the letters on this subject come from employers or captains of industry who complain that they are unable to find the right people to fill their vacancies.
But there are always two sides to every story, and employers would do well to read some of the responses on this week's Letters page. They come from those on the other side of the fence, people who are either looking for a job in hospitality or who are already employed in the industry and are unhappy with their lot.
Some have gone to great lengths to achieve good qualifications, and have written countless letters looking for a way into an industry in which they are desperate to pursue a career, but as yet to no avail. Almost worse than this is the growing number of correspondents who already have a job in hospitality but have become so disillusioned that they are looking for a way out.
This is where the industry needs to sit down and put its house in order. To bemoan the skills shortage is one thing - we know that, for the foreseeable future at least, this problem probably won't go away. Just as important, and too often overlooked, is another crucial piece of the jigsaw - how to hang on to employees once they are on board.
Some employers may view offering money as a panacea but, whereas most employees would say "yes" to a bit extra, the majority probably do not enter the hospitality industry thinking that they will get rich in a hurry. Nonetheless, they may expect a few perks, such as staff accommodation, and this is a good example of where the gulf between expectation and reality widens.
In an industry that purports to provide comfortable, even luxurious, conditions front of house, employees are understandably not expecting to find behind the scenes a leaky roof, furniture that should be in a museum, and mould on the floor, as one of our letter writers reports.
Not everyone will want staff accommodation, of course. It's a question of assessing individual needs and being able to adapt, whether this means offering flexible benefits, part-time working or financial incentives.
It's a tall order to suggest that this needs to be done almost on an individual basis, but in today's job market those who don't may soon find themselves losing out.
Ignoring such requests could also give the message that employees do not matter, and the knock-on effect of that is an unhappy workforce that is unlikely to give positive vibes to customers.
Clearly, the issues of the skills shortage and retention go hand in hand. Bosses who address the two subjects together might find that the long-term forecast for hospitality is rather brighter than they had expected.
Caterer & Hotelkeeper